The White House counsel’s office knew that a Treasury Department inspector general’s report about the IRS targeting conservative groups had been completed in April — weeks before the matter became public.
The New York Times reported the revelation as news as White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer launched a vigorous defense of the administration in a round of appearances on the Sunday talk shows, reiterating that President Obama knew nothing about the misdeeds within the agency.
Mr. Pfeiffer also defended Sarah Hall Ingram, who led the agency’s tax-exempt division as it admittedly targeted conservative groups. She recently was promoted to chief of the health care reform office, tasked with implementing Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul.
Other IRS authorities have paid the price for what officials on both sides of the aisle, along with a host of others, have described as outrageous behavior. Steven Miller, former acting IRS commissioner questioned by Congress last week, was pushed out by the president.
Ms. Ingram’s replacement, Joseph Grant, has announced his retirement despite taking the job only a few weeks ago.
The briefing on the audit for White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler came at about the same time that Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew met with J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, to learn the draft audit was complete, the Times reported.
Republicans have tried to seize on the fact that the Treasury Department’s general counsel and its deputy secretary, Neal Wolin, learned early last summer — months before the 2012 elections — that Mr. George was investigating the IRS’s screening political groups seeking tax-exempt status.
But Democrats point out that Mr. George also informed Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, of the investigation in July.
Still, the GOP made clear Sunday that they are not letting the issue go away.
“I think we’re going to find that there’s a written policy that says we were targeting people who were opposed to the president. I can’t believe that one rogue agent started this. It seems to be too widespread,” said Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Critics of the administration expect many more heads to roll as the true scope and intent of the IRS actions come to light, but Mr. Pfeiffer on Sunday strongly defended Ms. Ingram.
“No one has suggested that she did anything wrong yet,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Before everyone in this town convicts this person in the court of public opinion with no evidence, let’s actually get the facts and make decisions after that. There’s nothing that suggests she did anything wrong,” he said.
Mr. Pfeiffer added that a top-down investigation of the IRS will examine Ms. Ingram’s 2009 to 2012 tenure as head of the tax-exempt division.
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